Few places in the world can claim a historical significance as multi-layered as Bath's, and even fewer can add to that distinction with continued relevance today. From Roman times to the era of Jane Austen and beyond, the city of Bath has long been a social hub and center of British society. Today, Hollywood and London film studios capitalize on that mixture of ancient and romantic, using Bath as the set for many period films.
In June 2012, camera crews were spotted on Bath Street near the historic Assembly Rooms, shooting scenes for the 2013 film "Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box," which stars Michael Sheen, Lena Headey and Sam Neill. When the film is released later this year, it will join a long list of movies filmed, in whole or in part, in Bath.
If you're planning to be in the area, here's a look at some cinematic hotspots you won't want to miss.
The Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum
Opened in 1771, Bath's Assembly Rooms were the center of Regency period culture and entertainment. Used as a gathering place where upper-class guests could mix, mingle, drink tea, play cards and enjoy musical performances, the four large rooms are now open to the public and offer a glimpse into life in the 1700s.
Visitors may recognize the rooms from the opera scene in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's "Persuasion," set partly in Bath. Portions of "The Duchess" with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes were filmed here as well. Admission prices are nominal, and visitors have the option to buy a combination ticket for the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum, which is located next door. The fashion museum, showcasing clothing styles of the past and present, is a girly girl’s dream and a perfect complement to a movie-themed tour of the area.
Bath Street and the Roman Baths
Though much of Bath's architecture is Georgian (from the late 1700s through the early 1800s), vestiges of the earlier Roman occupation still survive. The communal Roman baths, which date back 2,000 years, were as popular an attraction in Jane Austen's time as they are today, and they're an absolute must-see for visitors.
While the baths themselves are incredible, the pump room (now a restaurant) is most frequently seen on the big screen, and you can still grab a glass of the same kind of mineral water that people were flocking to drink so very long ago.
The area outside the baths is itself memorable, and the long columned and cobblestoned Bath Street has been in numerous films. Most notably, it's the spot where Ciaran Hinds' and Amanda Root's characters share a romantic kiss at the end of "Persuasion."
Home to a large collection of fine art, the Holburne Museum offers free admission and a glimpse at one of Bath's most notable filming locations. Located on Pulteney Street adjacent to Sydney Gardens, the Holburne's columned facade is both striking and picturesque. It served as the Devonshire villa in the 2008 film "The Duchess" and is recognizable as Steyne's mansion in the 2004 adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," starring Reese Witherspoon.
Pulteney Bridge and Great Pulteney Street
One of the most picturesque and well-known areas of Bath is Great Pulteney Street with its famous bridge. Crossing the River Avon, Pulteney Bridge connects the city of Bath with the neighborhood of Bathwick. Pulteney Street leads across the bridge directly to the Holburne Museum. Rows of houses line the street on either side; they were used for the London scenes in "Vanity Fair."
Just in front of the Holburne, Pulteney Street intersects a road called Sydney Place, and Jane Austen fans can gaze wistfully at her former residence, building number four.
by Zoe Bauer
Photos: A statue stands sentinel outside the Roman Baths, a World Heritage site, at Bath, England. (Photo by Simon Winnall/Visit Britain)
Rosemary Harden makes last adjustments to a mannequin wearing a knitted 1930s swimsuit for an exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
The Great Bath of the Roman Baths, shown here at night, is part of a World Heritage site at Bath, England. (Photo by David Angel/Visit Britain)